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Business Process Modeling. What is a process model? A formal way of representing how a business system operates. Illustrates the activities that are performed and how data moves through the process. A process model can be used to document current system or to illustrate new system

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Business Process Modeling

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Business process modeling

Business Process Modeling

  • What is a process model?

    • A formal way of representing how a business system operates.

    • Illustrates the activities that are performed and how data moves through the process.

    • A process model can be used to document current system or to illustrate new system

  • Use Cases and Data Flow Diagrams (DFD) are among many techniques to support Business Process Modeling

Why draw process models

Why Draw Process Models?

  • To clearly communicate the processes (flow of data) through a system.

  • To help us structure our view of the business process.

  • To formalize the description of processes (documentation)

  • Diagrams are sometimes easier to understand than text.

Microcomputer store

Microcomputer Store

  • Major Use Cases:

    • Web Query

    • Order Placement

    • Product Search

    • Fulfillment

Microcomputer store1

Microcomputer Store

  • Within ‘Web Query’

    • Product Search

    • About Us

    • Promotions

    • Order Status

    • Repair Information

Microcomputer store2

Microcomputer Store

What is a data flow diagram

What is a Data Flow Diagram?

  • A data flow diagram (DFD) is a graphical tool that allows system analysts (and system users) to depict the flow of data in an information system.

  • The DFD is one of the methods that system analysts use to collect information necessary to determine information system requirements.

  • The goal is to build a model where the technique is transparent.

Dfd symbols and definitions

DFD Symbols and Definitions

  • Process - performs some action on data, such as creates, modifies, stores, delete, etc. Can be manual or supported by computer.

  • Data store - information that is kept and accessed. May be in paper file folder or a database.

  • External entity - is the origin or destination of data. Entities are external to the system.

  • Data flow - the flow of data into or out of a process, datastore or entity


Data store



Data flow

What does a dfd look like

What does a DFD look like?

Dfd levels

DFD Levels

  • It is difficult, usually impossible, to observe and inventory all interactions at a single level. Building a DFD, then, is an iterative process up and down levels.

Dfd levels context diagram

DFD Levels: Context Diagram

  • The highest ‘level’ of DFD is the most general overview of a system. This general overview is called a “Context Diagram”.

  • A Context Diagram shows three things:

    • all external entities

    • a single process labeled “0” that represents the entire system.

    • the major information flows between the external entities and the system.

Context level note there are no storage elements at this level

Context Level(note there are no storage elements at this level)

Dfd adding levels of detail

DFD: Adding Levels of Detail

  • The highest level, called the context diagram, is only an overview. More detail is typically needed for system analysts.

  • We add detail to a DFD by creating “levels”. The first level added after the context diagram is called level “0”.

  • Each new level breaks apart one process and “decomposes” the single process into a new, more detailed DFD. A complete DFD can have many (up to 6 or 7) levels depending on the complexity of system.

  • Breaking the DFD into levels is referred to as “Decomposition”.

Level 0

Level 0

Context level 0 diagrams

Context & Level 0 Diagrams

  • In the Context and Level 0 diagram there are two things to notice:

    • Both diagrams contain same external entities

      • This is called Balancing

    • The level 0 diagram has broken the system into 4 processes and 3 data stores.

      • This is an example of Decomposition

Dfd numbering levels

DFD: Numbering Levels

  • In a DFD with many levels it’s easy to forget which level you are on. That’s why each level has different numbering for the processes on the diagram. The ‘level’ corresponds to the number of decimal places required to define a process in it.

  • Here’s how it works:

    • Context DiagramProcess labeled “0”

    • Level 0Processes labeled 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, .

    • Level 1Processes labeled 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, .

    • Level 2Processes labeled 1.1.1, 1.1.2,...

Dfd example

DFD Example

  • You first go through each process, successively breaking up the process into smaller components until nothing remains divisible. The SFU Microcomputer Store can be broken down as per the following tables

Top 0 process level

Top (0) Process Level

Level 1 web query

Level 1: Web Query

Level 1 order placement

Level 1: Order Placement

Dfd levels context diagram1

DFD Levels: Context Diagram

  • It would be impossible to understand all of the data flows, and to identify all of the ‘external entities’ relating to our information system in one pass, so we tend to draw DFD’s incrementally.

Building a dfd

Building a DFD

  • We tend to start at the context level, break processes down to Level 0, and then start to consider where data enters and exits our information system, where it is stored, and how a process converts it from one form to another. We are interested here in the movement of data and its conversion.

Dfd for microstore

DFD for Microstore

  • Corresponding to the Process Structure Charts previously outlined, SFU’s Microstore DFD can be drawn as per the following charts:

Level 1 web query1

Level 1: Web Query

Level 1 order placement1

Level 1: Order Placement

Building a dfd1

Building a DFD

  • Note that a DFD is NOT time-sensitive, and that it is NOT a flowchart. It simply shows how and where data itself progresses through our system.

  • There are other ways to add information to a chart, such as what departments are responsible for certain activities, or which is batch, realtime, etc.

Dfd logical vs physical

DFD: Logical vs Physical

  • Note that the Context Diagram did NOT record the movement of merchandise, but rather the information flow surrounding the underlying business processes.

    • A DFD that shows the movement of information is called a “logical” DFD.

    • A DFD that shows the movement of physical stuff (such as merchandise) is called a “physical” DFD.

  • The logical DFD is by far the most common type of DFD and therefore we will focus on this in this class.

Rules for drawing dfd s

Rules for Drawing DFD’s

A minimum of one data flow

in and one data flow out of

a process

A datastore must be

connected to a process

(either in, out, or both)

An external entity must

be connected to a process

(either in, out, or both)

A single data flow must

only flow one way

Dfd common mistakes syntax

DFD: Common Mistakes (Syntax)

  • ‘Miracle’: Process has no data flowing into it, but has data flowing out. Alternately, ‘Black Hole’

  • Data store is hooked to external entity. This means external entity can read and write to your data file without auditing!!

  • The data flow goes in two directions at once. Two or more arrows should be used to show the flow to and from each process.

Logic representation

Logic Representation

  • DFD’s do not show logic inside processes

  • Many tools handle this next design function

    • Structured English

    • Decision Tables

    • Decision Trees

Structured english

Structured English

  • Intermediate Step between English descriptions and Program Code

    • BEGIN IF

      • IF condition

      • THEN action

      • ELSE action

    • ENDIF

    • READ data element

    • DO-WHILE

    • DO-UNTIL

Structured english1

Structured English



IF BALANCE is greater than ZERO


ELSE DO nothing



Structured english2

Structured English


IF BALANCE is less than LIMIT




IF BALANCE is greater than LIMIT




Decision tables

Decision Tables

  • Conditions

    • Predetermined to handle complexity

      • YES / NO

      • <limit

  • Actions

    • Law of Requisite Variety

  • Rules

    • For Each Action

Decision tables1

Decision Tables

Decision trees

Decision Trees

  • A Graphical Rendition of Decision Tables

    • can add probability and optimize

Decision trees1

Decision Trees

Do Nothing

Print Bill;

Include Minimum


Print Bill;

Refer to Management

Print Bill










1) Balance < 0?

2) Balance < Limit?

3) Overdue = YES?


Dfd some final notes

DFD: Some Final Notes

  • How many processes on a diagram?

    • rule of thumb is to have 5 - 7 processes, if you need more, create a new level.

  • Are there conventions for naming objects?

    • process names are verb phrases

    • all others are noun phrases

  • How many levels should you go?

    • Only as many as you need to communicate adequately. The key is efficient communication.

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